The Stooges live in United Palace Theatre, New York (9 April 2007)
Can old rockers still hack it live with a reputation that's been building since their split in 1974? The Stooges blew the roof off a dusty old uptown theatre.... Detroit style.
The CLUAS Verdict? 8.5 out of 10
The first thing that struck me about this gig in the slightly run-down United Palace Theatre was that it was fully seated. For a horrible moment I thought I'd have to follow polite convention and sit through a rock & roll gig, and not just any normal rock & roll show. The Stooges (or 'Iggy & the Stooges' as they've been billed) have decided to comply with rock's own polite convention and re-unite in recent years with the almost complete original line-up of Iggy Pop (natch), brothers Scott and Ron Asheton on drums and guitar and new member Mike Watt on bass, formerly of the Minutemen. Surprisingly three of the four original members of the Stooges have survived to tell the tale, original bassist Dave Alexander has since passed on.
Fortunately, as soon as they hit the stage - Iggy already bare-chested - the whole audience took to their feet and remained there for the rest of the show. Before he'd even uttered a word, Iggy had already climbed a Marshall stack behind Mike, laid completely flat and just stared at the audience. And then, from the other end of the stage Ron played the opening chords of 'Loose' and, well, mayhem ensued. I was stuck in the balcony so I had to keep my comical pogoing to a minimum (but hey, at least I could stand) but got a good view of the audience going crazy. Iggy dismounted and limbered up to the mic with that half-walk, half-seizure he does and started to sing with that infamous sneer that' has so defined this band.
The material throughout the show consisted of debut album The Stooges, Fun House, Skull Ring and new album The Weirdness. When I asked why Raw Power classics like 'Search & Destroy' or 'Penetration' (guaranteed to kill at any show) weren't played, I was told that the James Williamson era material apparently wasn't deemed suitable for the original band. That was disappointing, some of my favourite tracks are on that album, but I didn't sweat it for too long. The songs played from the debut album, most memorably '1969' and 'I Wanna to Be Your Dog' sounded more muscular than the thin, incohesive albums tracks while the Fun House songs were just as much of an onslaught as on the album. By the time they played '1970', halfway through the set, I was gob smacked. They still sounded like the loudest, nastiest rock & roll band that created the legend forty years ago. Iggy, approaching 60, had unnatural amounts of energy. At times he was playful with the audience (literally) but was just as likely to fix us with a stare and scream like a maniac on the street.
During 'No Fun' he invited the whole audience to come up and dance with him, about 150 of which complied, and continued to perform the song on the edge of the stage as people jostled and pogoed towards him, grabbing his arms, hair, jeans, everything, almost tipping him off the stage in the process. He took it all in his stride and continued the song. Towards the end of the show, they appeared to drop the set-list and Iggy just barked out songs with barely a few seconds in between. The new songs were played with just as much conviction and the pace didn't drop for a second.
A surprise addition halfway through the set was Steve MacKay, the saxophone player on Fun House. His playing added a woozy, disorienting feeling to the wall of distorted guitar, especially 'L.A. Blues' which disintegrated into a long aural assault with Iggy screaming at the crowd. It was draining just listening to it and yet the break in between sets was only a few seconds long, no sooner was he off the stage than he was running back on, emptying bottles of water over his head.
To hear some of these songs with the intensity that they were created almost forty years after the fact is a rare thing these days. Ron Ashetons gut-trembling guitar riffs still sound incredible and Iggy lived up to the legendary reputation of a performer who thrives on chaos.
In short, it was the
gig I was hoping it would be and the legend of Detroit's Stooges lives on.